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Friday, 14 December, 2018

Expect Roma to go all out to keep Barcelona's big hitters quiet

Italians set to park the autobus

Barcelona's prolific pair Luis Suarez (left) and Lionel Messi
1 of 1

Champions League quarter-final first leg
BT Sport 3, 7.45pm Wednesday

Italy bequeathed to the world Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Maserati, yet Roma are hoping a no-nonsense bus can drive them towards a place in the Champions League last four.

The giallorossi will be trading sleek and sporty for solid and secure as they strive to put the brakes on Barcelona’s march towards a sixth European crown.

Roma know that when the flag drops to start their quarter-final tie in the Nou Camp they are going to be chasing shadows for 90 minutes, and it’s inevitable that Eusebio Di Francesco will be parking the autobus in an attempt to keep Lionel Messi at bay.

Italian exile Antonio Conte tried his best to loosen a nut or two on the Barcelona machine in the last round but fell short and there is no obvious reason to think Roma can be any more successful than Chelsea.

Wretched away travellers in Europe, the Wolves were thrashed 6-1 when they last visited Barcelona in this competition in November 2015 and have won only one of their last 14 Champions League away ties. That was in September at Qarabag.

The size of the task which awaits Roma is colossal.

Barcelona are unbeaten in 17 matches since a Copa del Rey loss at Espanyol and are nine points clear in La Liga.

They have conceded only two goals in eight Champions League ties this season and their potent front two of Messi and Luis Suarez have banged in 32 goals between them since the turn of the year.

Punters will be all over the pair of them to find the net and/or the Barcelona win to nil. And it’s easier to make cases for those outcomes copping than not.

There’s a worrying lack of pace at the heart of the Roma defence – especially Federico Fazio – which makes the presence in midfield of a player of the calibre of Roman Nainngolan crucial. And the Belgian is a major doubt.

The fact that they won 4-2 at Napoli in the league a month ago and have lost only at Juventus in their schedule of away games in Serie A demonstrates they know how to organise themselves on their travels, although they lost 2-1 at Shakhtar in the previous round.

It's hard to envisage a Barca massacre because Roma will defend in blocks, stay compact and offer up the wide areas to the hosts where they should be less effective.

And that, accordingly, could well add up to fewer goals than the layers envisage. The 1-2 for over 2.5 looks way too short. Indeed, Betfair’s 9-5 that there isn’t a goal in each half seems better value.

In nine of Barcelona’s last 13 matches (and five of their eight in the Champions League) at least one half has been goalless.

No goal in one or both halves
1pt 9-5 Betfair

La Liga standings

Serie A standings

Match odds

Team news
Sergio Busquets has recovered from a broken bone in his foot. Lucas Digne is injured.

Turkish sensation Cengiz Under is out. Radja Nainngolan is a doubt though Lorenzo Pellegrini is expected to be fine after a knock.

Key stat
Roma have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 26 away Champions League matches. 

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It's hard to envisage a Barca massacre because Roma will defend in blocks, stay compact and offer up the wide areas to the hosts
E.W. Terms
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